Tuesday, October 28, 2008

9. Awakening America to the Zionist cause

At the Zionist Congress in Geneva, in August 1939, the American delegation set up an Emergency Committee, the purpose of which was to maintain contact with the various branches of the Zionist movement, in case the war would cut off those branches from the offices of the Zionist Executive in London or Jerusalem.[1] Besides representatives from all major Zionist parties in the country, Weizmann added a number of Zionist leaders on behalf of the Jewish Agency Executive, with the World Zionist leaders keeping control, emphasizing the transfer of Zionism’s center from Britain to America.[2]

As the power of Britain seemed at the point of decline, the Zionists’ attention to the United States was not just in the hope that the White House might influence Whitehall to change its policy, but also to replace Great Britain with the emerging superpower as the mainspring of gentile support. If the United States would be the strongest country after the war, the Zionist movement needed its support.[3]

The Emergency Committee organized a national network of 380 local committees, while in April 1941 it assisted in forming the American Palestine Committee, an organization intended to enlist the support of American Christianity. At the time of its creation in 1941 this Palestine committee had more than 700 members, including 67 Senators, 143 Representatives and 22 Governors, while at the end of the war the total number of members had risen up to 6,500 public figures.[4]

When on 15 October 1941 Lord Moyne informed Weizmann that no Jewish fighting force, bearing a Jewish flag, would be allowed to partake in the war, the Jewish Agency organized a campaign in the United States for a special Jewish Brigade.[5] Also a Revisionist campaign, organized by the American friends of the Irgun, demanded since December 1941 in full page advertisements the immediate formation of a Jewish Army, consisting of 200,000 combatants from Palestine and Europe. They also, in accordance with their Revisionist ideas, demanded the establishment of a Jewish state, which should be recognized as an ally of the United Nations.[6]

Opinion polls in 1935-1936 had shown that 76 percent of the Americans were in favor of unlimited immigration and unrestricted settlement of Jews in Palestine. Only 7 percent were against, 8 percent were undecided and 5 percent had no opinion at all.[7] This positive attitude as to maximalist Zionism was probably a result of the strong Evangelical Protestant tradition, believing Palestine to be divinely selected as the site of the Jewish Nation.[8] It was much more difficult to convince the American Administration that the goals of Zionism were divinely justified.

Weizmann himself went three times to the United States during the war, each time trying to win the American Administration for Zionism. In February 1940 Weizmann had an interview with Roosevelt, trying to get his cooperation in making a new start with Palestine after the war and in rejecting the White Paper. Although friendly, Roosevelt responded without committing himself.[9]

During the summer of 1943 Weizmann had another talk with Roosevelt, who again refused to commit himself. Weizmann defended his opinion that if both Churchill and Roosevelt would back the establishment of the Jewish national home, the Arabs would finally be forced to acquiesce because of overwhelming power. Summer Welles, the Foreign Secretary, who was present at this talk, tried in vain to evoke a more positive response of Roosevelt, by underwriting the idea of Jewish statehood as Weizmann proposed.[10]

With respect to statehood the Zionists had come much closer to the Revisionist position since the publication of the White Paper. They thought that the publication of this Paper destroyed any chance to reach agreement with the Arabs on the Jewish National Home as the Arabs would now refuse to accept anything less than what had been promised to them in the White Paper. Gradualism and careful negotiations with Britain had proved to be in vain, so only one alternative was left. Only the way of forcefully erecting a Jewish state remained.[11]

[1] Esco, Palestine Vol. II, p. 1078.
[2] Ibid., p. 1079; Taylor, Prelude to Israel, p. 74.
[3] Taylor, Prelude to Israel, p. 74.
[4] Ibid., pp. 75, 78; Hurewitz, Struggle for Palestine, pp. 144, 210.
[5] Hurewitz, Struggle for Palestine, p. 129; Esco, Palestine Vol. II, pp. 1032-3.
[6] Yakir Eventov and Cvi Rotem, ‘Zionism in the United States’, in Zionism (Jerusalem, 1973), p. 215; Hurewitz, Struggle for Palestine, p. 130; Esco, Palestine Vol. II, pp. 1033-4.
[7] Regina Sharif, Non-Jewish Zionism: Its Roots in Western History (London, 1983), p. 111.
[8] Ibid., p. 114. Long before the Zionist movement came into existence, many Christians in Europe and the USA believed that the Jews would return to Palestine and prayed for this event, as they considered that related to the end of times and the return of Christ.
[9] Weizmann, Trial and Error, p. 420.
[10] Ibid., p. 435.
[11] Haim, Abandonment of Illusions, p. 159.

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